Recognising the signs of overtraining syndrome; you either believe that they exist or you balk at the idea as a myth perpetuated by the lazy.

The truth, as always, isn’t as simple as being black or white, but rather can be found in between the many shades of grey.

In a nutshell, overtraining exists, especially if your recovery isn’t on point. Here’s how to spot the signs and nip them in the bud early.

Expert trainer:

Rich Pohler – Certified S&C specialist to elite MMA fighters such as Eddie Alvarez, Marlon Moraes and Paul Felder. Visit


10 Signs of overtraining syndrome and how to fix them


1) Get smart to avoid overtraining

I definitely believe in overtraining, especially in strength and conditioning.

Everyone thinks more is better, but if you systematize everything, in a way it reduces the risk of you overtraining and getting hurt.

The old saying is no pain, no gain. I don’t believe in that: I say no brain, no gain!


2) Know your body and listen to the signs

A lot of these guys tend to fight through pain, but when you have pain, you have inflammation and that’s going to be a detriment to your performance, big-time.

Your body tends to give you cues loud and clear, whether through inflammation, joint pain and fatigue amongst other signs. You’d do best to listen and take recovery time.


3) Follow your heart for one of the biggest signs of overtraining

When you wake in the morning and track heart rates for a few days with relatively high readings, that’s indicative of overtraining.

I track fighters’ heart rates during fighter-simulated training by looking at their recovery in their one-minute rest after five minutes of work.

For instance, as the fight gets closer, if they get up to 180bpm and recover to 110, that’s a significant drop and I know they’re pretty efficient.

If they’re not dropping the way I want them to, I know we need to back off on the intensity and duration so we don’t overtrain


4) You can’t fight through overtraining

If your body starts to hurt, you have to ease your way through the pain, not power through.

If a fighter has any kind of injury, unusual soreness or stiffness, we create modalities to expedite the healing process.


signs of overtraining


5) Dial your training back

I’ll ask how many times a fighter is training in a day. If they’re doing three sessions and taking one day off a week, I’ll ask them to back off maybe one session per day.

I can’t control everything – just what’s under my prescription for strength and conditioning – so I change their work-rest ratios.


6) Easy does it to avoid overtraining syndrome

We start a fight camp at a lower percentage, then increase the percentage by 2% each week.

It’s only small percentages, I know they’re hitting all cylinders when they’re hitting strength training numbers two weeks out.

Also during fighter-simulated circuits, if an athlete needs to do more work to get their heart up to a higher rate and they recover to a much lower rate, I know they’re firing.


7) Change it up

If you take a step back from sparring to reduce intensity, work on creating situations and mimicking them where they’re not taking impact – just getting a sweat on and keeping your mind sharp.

This can be difficult to teach since these guys are so used to having some kind of regimen.


8) Learn from the pros or suffer the consequences of overtraining

I’ve seen guys get sick, their immune system suppressed, their appetite suppressed, they hold onto their weight because they’re stressed and are more vulnerable to injury.

I equate fatigue to digging a ditch: when it becomes deep, it’s going to take a long time to get out of it.

The more you try to train through overtraining, the deeper that hole gets and the harder it is to climb out of.

It’s best to recognise this sign of overtraining early and stop digging the hole while it’s relatively shallow.


9) Save yourself

These guys have got to fight through pain. They feel that if they go through a training camp and they’re not hurting in some way, they really didn’t go through a camp. I get it.

But there will come a point when you can’t throw a punch as hard because you have some kind of pain due to inflammation, fatigue or some kind of knock.

You have to back off. I wouldn’t want to lose a fight because I lacked that kind of power and stamina as I had incurred some kind of injury.


10) Don’t try to be a hero and ignore signs of overtraining syndrome

The younger guys think they need to prove themselves so they can ignore the symptoms and fight through it.

I understand they want to fight through it and get the best out of their training, but sometimes more is not better.

Veterans are pretty aware of what’s going on in their bodies because they learned from their mistakes and that is part of the fight game.

They understand they need to take a day off. You should follow suit and come back to fight stronger another day.


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